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Implementing Peer Specialists in Suicide Prevention Efforts in the Veterans Health Administration.

Schmutte T, Krishnamurti LS, Davidson L, Klee A, Bullock J, Panas RM, Pfeiffer PN, Chinman M. Implementing Peer Specialists in Suicide Prevention Efforts in the Veterans Health Administration. The Psychiatric quarterly. 2023 Jun 1; 94(2):311-319.

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OBJECTIVE: The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) recognizes peer support as an underused intervention in suicide prevention. PREVAIL is a peer-based suicide prevention intervention that was designed and piloted with non-veteran patients recently hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or behaviors. The purpose of this study was to elicit veteran and stakeholder feedback to inform the adaptation of PREVAIL for piloting with veterans flagged for high suicide risk. METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with multiple stakeholders from a VHA medical center in the northeast. Interviews focused on the perceived benefits and concerns of peer specialists directly addressing suicide risk with veterans. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using rapid qualitative analysis. RESULTS: Interviewees included clinical directors (n? = 3), suicide prevention coordinators (n? = 1), outpatient psychologists (n? = 2), peer specialists (n? = 1), and high-risk veterans (n? = 2). Overall, peer specialists were viewed as possessing many distinct strengths in engaging and helping high-risk veterans as part of a team approach. Concerns included liability, adequate training, clinical supervision and support, and self-care for peer specialists. CONCLUSIONS: Findings indicated support and confidence that peer support specialists would be a valuable addition and could help fill existing gap in VHA''s suicide prevention efforts.

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